Our world, our universe, is made up of many things.
Some of them we can see, hear, smell, taste, touch. Some of them we can’t.
Some of them we can remember, some of them are less present.
Some are part of our immediate space and some are far away.
We can be certain of so little, except that we don’t currently –and may never– know all of our universe. We can’t know everything through direct experience, not by a long shot, but through the scientific method, humanity can keep exploring beyond that direct experience. How? By insisting that investigate without pretending to know more than we do. Feigning knowledge precludes discovery. (Ok, maybe it doesn’t rule discovery out completely, but it makes quite a bit tougher.)
The process of using observation, hypotheses, experimentation, and theories to offer more or less reasonably verified explanation of phenomena gives us a means by which to resist the hubris of defining the world through only our beliefs and personal experiences.
There it is. You are relieved of needing to have all the answers. You don’t need to get anything right, unless, of course, you intend to “bring it back for science!” (that’s Ellie, from Pixar’s Up talking). And because explaining the universe with facts falls to science, you and I, in our non-scientist capacities, can experience the universe.
We can write philosophy and poetry and stories that tell it not “like it is,” but like we experience it.
Yoga’s process of samyama (referred to here in sutra 3.26 as “focusing the light of perception”) lets us have a direct experience of all the phenomena in the universe through our consciousness. At least, that’s what the sutras tell us:
By correctly directing and focusing the light of perception in which the senses and their objects (the whole of nature) function, knowledge can be gained of the subtle, the hidden, and even the remote objects or phenomena.
Translation by Swami Venkatesananda
We need science to <em>know</em> the universe, but we don’t always need science to <em>experience</em> the universe.
One avenue of exploration –be it science or direct experience– may spark a desire to translate your discoveries into a universal language (maybe the language of math or yoga or something else). Or it may leave you simply at peace with the universe and your place in it.
And then again, there’s no reason it can’t do both.
Try it out for yourself: look at the same thing through the lens of your experience and then with the facts that we have about. What does that do you for you? Does it change your mind about the thing? I’d love to know. Share your thoughts in the comments below! (And if that’s a useful exercise for you, pass it along to a friend, too!)
hari om tat sat!
An earlier version of this post first appeared on the Yoga 216 blog.